Scotland's Wildlife: Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle - (c) RSPB images

Sea eagles are large, broad-winged birds with a wedge-shaped tail. Their plumage is mainly brown, but the adult has a pale head and a distinctive white tail. The head and beak are larger than that of the golden eagle. The eyes, beak and talons are bright yellow.

Nest building begins in November with preferred tree nests being typically 2-3m across and 2-4m high. Cliff nests are smaller, about 2m high and 1-1.5m across. Birds pair for life and both will gather sticks and branches for the nest. A favoured site may be used for years or even centuries. Everything from driftwood to fishing floats have been found making up these massive constructions.

Persecuted to extinction in the 19th Century, the sea eagle was reintroduced to the island of Rum in the Inner Hebrides in 1975 and since then several breeding pairs have been successful in rearing young. Featuring on the red list of UK birds of conservation concern, the sea eagle is still at risk from persecution and illegally placed poisons intended for foxes and crows, while its nests are at risk from egg collectors.

The white-tailed sea eagle is the fourth-largest eagle in the world and is considered a close relative of the American bald eagle.

Where to see them
Sea eagles are commonly found in the far west coast of Scotland and the Inner Hebrides. The location of nesting sites are a closely guarded secret due to their conservation status.

Page first published on Monday 7th April 2008
Page last updated on Friday 17th October 2008

Post Your Comment




Latin Name: Haliaeetus albicilla
Gaelic Name: Iolair Suil na Greine or Iolair-mhara
Meaning: The eagle with the sunlit eye or sea eagle
Also known as Erne or White-tailed eagle

Statistics: Body Length: 70-90cm Wingspan: 2-2.4m Weight: 3.1-6.9kg

Scottish Distribution
Mull, Skye, the Small Isles and the far west Scottish mainland.

Their preferred habitat is rocky coasts. Further inland, they may also inhabit areas such as remote lakes and marshes.

Sea eagles are scavengers sometimes living exclusively on carrion, but they also hunt seabirds, fish, and sometimes medium-sized mammals.

Unlike golden eagles, sea eagles regularly raise two young.
Egg laying occurs in mid-March and the female begins incubation when the first egg arrives. The eggs are much more rounded than a hen's egg and about four times the size.The female does most of the incubation, especially overnight. When moving around the birds keep their talons tucked away to avoid damaging the eggs. Eggs hatch in late April.
When the chick is very young the female is reluctant to leave the nest so the male hunts and leaves food on the edge of the nest. At four weeks the eaglets sprout feathers and leave the nest between 10 and 12 weeks old.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.